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March 31, 2015

SMS vs. MMS

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Mobile marketing is nowhere near critical mass. For a variety of reasons, this marketing channel is not as widely used as experts predict for the future—many speculate the distinction between SMS and MMS messaging is not popularly understood, and as a result, has slowed growth. But it’s really not that complicated, and choosing the right tactic for a marketing campaign doesn’t have to be a painstaking process of trial and error. Before we jump into the unique traits and characteristics of each, let’s look at a few basic similarities.

 

Similarities

Short Message Service (SMS) and Multimedia Message Service (MMS) are both mobile marketing tactics that are designed to complement a marketing strategy by providing content directly to consumers’ handsets or mobile devices. SMS and MMS work to instantaneously provide content directly to users, engaging consumers via their mobile device, the result of which is highly effective, reliable and progressive. 

 

Differences

The most obvious difference between the two is made clear by their names. SMS is a text-based service that does not provide users with rich media content. Conversely, MMS allows users to send a variety of media including images, animated .GIF, and short video or audio files. This is where the divergence really begins, as the latter may cost more money to produce but also delivers a substantially higher return on investment. 

 

MMS Advantages 

MMS messages can be sent peer-to-peer from mobile phones, a mobile messaging service provider, or a website. These multimedia messages enjoy higher customer engagement, and better click-through-rates. What’s more, MMS increases campaign opt-ins by 20% over SMS and subscribers are more likely to engage with the content on social media outlets. 

The quality of MMS content is perceived as much higher than SMS and has a well-maintained handset database. Real-time content transcoding makes sending media faster and with unlimited charters and device detection, the message is louder and goes further. Most phones already support MMS messages and don’t require further enablement. MMS does not require data from the end user. 

 

SMS Advantages 

 

While SMS doesn’t have the same branding opportunities as MMS, it does offer useful insight by providing user data that’s not so easily collected by MMS messages. 

Although the standard SMS message is limited to 160 characters, this may include a link that tracks back to a website where useful information can be collected, or further online engagement can occur. The drawback, of course, is that data is required by the end user and can sometimes have hidden costs for the user as well. This is one of the more debated issues surrounding SMS messaging today, as extraneous data usage can often cause more harm than good when trying to develop a loyal mobile audience. 

SMS can be sent peer-to-peer or through a mobile messaging service provider. SMS is incredibly fast, with 99.99% delivered in under 15 seconds. Currently, SMS delivers more than 3 billion messages a year, across most small US carriers. 

Hopefully by getting a better handle on what these two marketing tactics do, marketers will be ready to help further realize the advantages and disadvantages of using these highly effective marketing tools. 

 

 

March 30, 2015

Analytics App Raises $34 Million

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In search of the best analytics tool for your marketing app? Localytics might be the answer to your app-tastic prayers. A service app that offers “analytics, insights, and marketing solutions in one place,” Localytics has raised $34 million in Series D funding so far.  

The company initially focused on app analytics, but CEO Raj Aggarwal noted that customers also called for tools that made it easy to move forward with their newly-acquired data. This prompted the Localytics team to add push notifications, integration with sales and business intelligence software, email marketing, and in-app messaging. Aggarwal explained that businesses are in need of “all the insights and tools to engage users and meet their expectations for an amazing app experience, in one place.”  

He pointed out that apps are an essential component of the digital experience, and as such, businesses need their marketing and product teams to use the same tools. Disparate data sets are quickly becoming a thing of the past.  

Localytics offers real-time, granular data analytics that answer questions such as, “How frequently do consumers visit my app?”, “How long does the average user spend on my app per visit?”, “What are people doing in my app?” and “Why aren’t my app users converting?” among other relevant queries. The insights portion of Localytics shows which demographic your app targets, what features pique consumer interest the longest, how many purchases were made over the last 15 days, and what makes some users “more valuable” than others. 

As far as marketing services, Localytics offers push messaging that helps re-engage customers, in-app messaging that lets users know about new features, and features answers to attribution questions, such as where to invest in terms of advertising. A/B testing is also part of the app’s marketing services, and helps determine what drives the most conversions, and which call to actions are best for specific campaigns.  

Localytics is currently used by some 32,000 apps, including those for eBay, ESPN, Fox, The New York Times, and the upcoming HBO Now app. 

The company will soon introduce a new predictive marketing feature, which is designed to aid businesses in discovering which customers are most likely to abandon the app. Once such customers are identified, they’ll receive targeted messages convincing them to keep using it. This marketing feature also determines which customers are willing to spend more on the app, and subsequently tempts them with targeted deals.

Current Localytics investors include Sapphire Ventures, Foundation Capital, and Polaris Partners.

 

March 27, 2015

Mobile Marketing is Going Hyper-Local

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Mobile marketing has taken huge strides towards fulfilling the potential of geo-targeting technology, allowing local businesses to make the most of their sphere of influence. The only way for geo-location techniques to go is inward, reaching ever-more specific parts of the local economy.

Mobile marketing is doing just that, placing an increasing emphasis on attracting foot traffic to brick and mortar retail outlets. The industry is now able to service international brands with bespoke campaigns in multiple locations using region-specific methods capable of targeting users to a single square foot. 

This ultimate refinement of mobile marketing tactics is a real game changer. A heady cocktail of beacons, GPS, location information gathered from existing interactions and other geolocaters is ushering in a new era of hyper-local mobile marketing so precise it’s hard to imagine how it could improve further.

Having such devastatingly effective mobile marketing tactics available at the local level is helping small businesses maximize their efficiency on tight budgets. For a relatively low cost, small businesses can quickly, reliably reach the widest audience they can serve, via a combination of in-app messaging, web ads, text messages, MMS and push notifications. 

So what next? With such sophistication already on display, where targeted mobile marketing could go now is anybody’s guess. Some mobile marketers are considering adjusting their services to allow for weather, which would let marketers better judge the prime time to pitch discounts. It might not be relevant to every business, but purveyors of ice cream or rooftop cocktails could really use knowing if it’s about to rain the moment they’ve sent their 50% discount coupon to hundreds of people. Other local data like traffic conditions may also begin to play a part in geo-location technology. 

The tools at our disposal allows imaginative approaches to marketing to flourish, unencumbered by technological limits. Nobody can say for certain what the next few years hold for mobile marketing - that’s why it’s so exciting. But if the rapid rate of change we’ve seen take place over the past decade continues, we can be confident that the mobile landscape of 2025 will look very different to the one we see today.

March 26, 2015

Pace is Using SMS to Tell People When Their Bus is Arriving

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The speedy reliability of the text message has proven useful to all sorts of businesses. As a long term mobile marketing strategy, SMS messaging is capable of nurturing the loyalty of existing customers and winning over new leads, but it also happens to be the most effective method for issuing time sensitive messages.

Bus arrivals and departures information falls firmly into this latter category, a fact not lost on Pace, who have followed the example of countless bus companies around the country by establishing a text message service for riders. The Chicago-based company had, until recently, been relying solely on its online bus tracker to disseminate information, but gave in to high demand from customers for an SMS program similar to that offered by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA).  

To use the service, riders must send a text message containing the word “Pace” followed by the relevant bus stop number. The bus tracker is available as both a pure text format (for people with feature phones) and a rich graphic version for smartphones, tablets and desktop computers.

A spokesperson from Pace said the firm had held off launching a text message service when CTA unveiled theirs. The success of CTA’s venture - and the increase in bus rider expectations it prompted -  convinced Pace that the “availability of real time information is a key source of customer satisfaction.” 

Pace makes no bones about directly following CTA’s lead, even using the same company to provide the service, and for a while considering joining the same contract. 

With a bus system that covers more than 25,000 stops and six counties, their reticence to undertake such a huge task is understandable. Even post-launch, Pace admits to having no timeline for completing the replacement of old signs with new signs featuring the shortcode and bus stop numbers. In the meantime, riders can access this information from the Pace website.

March 25, 2015

The Benefits of Adding MMS to your Mobile Marketing Campaign

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For companies that aren’t sure about how to integrate MMS into a mobile marketing campaign, the first step is to understand MMS capabilities then realize those through useful cases that haven proven effective in various enterprises. Taking a creative stance, positioning the right use of MMS in a marketing campaign is virtually limitless.  

First, let’s understand what Multimedia Message Service (MMS) allows an enterprise to do. An MMS message can send rich media content directly to mobile devices anytime, anywhere. It’s a powerful and effective tool that strengthens customer loyalty by keeping them informed with time sensitive information. An MMS message speaks consistently to branding throughout all marketing channels, with messages that are equipped to handle image, video, audio or mixed SMIL. It’s truly a 21st century marketing solution that engages customers via mobile device, which they are likely to have with them at all times.

 

MMS Use Cases 

MMS communication utilizes these capabilities to increase revenue by upselling customers with unique offers, special services and more. Recognizable applications of MMS are used by millions of people already in the form of useful services, like providing a boarding pass for a more efficient check-in at the airport. Financial institutions also provide useful applications by providing bank statements and security warnings. Further, important emergency alerts can be sent via MMS, warning users of dangerous weather or traffic. 

Now let’s consider the creative uses of MMS messaging to connect with customers. Shipment notifications would allow users to receive speedy information from a local shipment station. Customer service providers can communicate with customers by trouble shooting common problems and sending helpful video/audio messages. The result of providing this improved service would reduce the contact center costs. 

Wellness centers and pharmacies could continue a discussion with customers long after they leave the store by updating important medical information, providing healthy living tips or special offers on new products or services. What’s more, brick and mortar stores of every variety can more effectively engage customers by offering product information with QR codes placed on shelf locations. Once the code is scanned, a customer could watch a video featuring additional product information.  

MMS messaging works best when it provides useful information and services to the end user. The more a user increases their engagement with the message, the more likely the they are to build the kind of lasting brand relationships all enterprise should seek with their customer base and audience. 

March 24, 2015

Is MMS the Next Big Thing in Mobile Marketing?

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Mobile marketing has proven more viable than its email predecessor, as consumers become more detached from their email and clients like Gmail implement new sorting features. Today, mobile devices are in almost every hand and most already have the ability to read SMS and MMS messages—yet, one question remains: which one is better?

Short Message Service (SMS) works similarly to a regular text message in that it can be sent peer-to-peer or from a mobile service provider, and appears to the user in simple text. There’s a limit, however, of 160 characters and all click links require the use of data by the end user. The upside is that these messages are fast, reliable and less expensive than their multimedia counterpart.

Multimedia Message Service (MMS) allows the use of images, animated .GIF, or short video and audio clips. Thousands of characters can be fit in a single MMS message, which provides better branding opportunities and higher high consumer engagement—boasting a 15% average click-through-rate and increased campaign opt-ins by 20% over SMS. 

Both of these mobile marketing tactics increase ROI by creating a direct line of communication to the consumer, building brand awareness and loyalty literally from the palm of the user’s hand. But as Zach Zimmerman of ePrize, the mobile marketing team behind Starbucks’ promo success, pointes out, “MMS is a tactic, not a strategy.” 

While the seeming advantage of MMS is presented in beautiful images, video and sound, the use of this service can be a financial money-pit if paired with the wrong message, brand, product or campaign—a number of things that have to be considered on a case-by-case basis.  

One huge drawback to the allure of MMS is its inability to collect important space and tracking data, which is easily available through mobile web landing pages, assessable through a click link in basic SMS messages. Moreover, MMS is not enabled on all mobile devices—yet. 

Upgrades and increased sophistication of these mobile marketing tactics are already underway. Developing platforms will allow brands to reach any phone, anywhere, anytime, from the iPhone5S to the Lumia. These media marketing companies are pushing the mobile frontier, and with clients like Ikea, Kellogg, Bloomingdales, Starbucks and major TV networks buying what these companies are throwing down, it’s only a matter of time before answering the SMS vs. MMS question will need to be answered once and for all. 

 

 

March 17, 2015

New App Helps Canadians Pay for Parking via Mobile

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Toronto, Canada drivers will soon have a new mobile option at their fingertips, one designed to make parking easier.  

The Toronto Star recently reported that Canadian smartphone users may use a new app to pay for parking in the city’s outdoor Green P lots.  

“City-owned Toronto Parking Authority unveiled a free app and said that, by the end of spring, motorists should be able to use it to pay to park — and remotely extend their time if needed — at all outdoor Green P lots that currently use ‘pay and display’ machines,” the report notes.

In today’s world, cities and municipalities in every shape and size are using mobile apps, iBeacons, and similar options to aid local residents in finding parking and paying for parking tickets. Since mobile apps are utilized to make innumerable familiar chores more convenient, it’s no surprise it’s extended to parking.  

The mobile app as well as cell phones and web browsers may be used to make payments, and signup is free. Registration is straightforward, and only requires a quick download and mobile number entry to receive and subsequently enter a verification code. The final step is creating a PIN number. The app is available wherever Green P Parking signs are found, i.e. non-gated, off-street parking lots all over the city of Toronto. 

Ticket enforcement officers check license plate number and payment standing after parking, and the only fee drivers pay is the normal parking rate. There’s no service charges or other fees associated with the app.  

"This kind of approach makes sense," said Mayor John Tory at a recent news conference held to unveil the app. "Our role isn't to fight the future, it's to embrace the future."

Tory also added that he believed Toronto  has been “frozen in time," and vowed that the city is set to use modern technology in its services. “I think we have actually ended up behind other Canadian cities in a number of instances and I am determined to see us where we should be,” he said, saying the app will give residents "the best possible parking experience."

The mayor also noted the app will “make lives easier for people in the city.” 

Green P Parking lets drivers know when their parking is about to expire, and allows them to add more time, whatever their current location. The credit-card based system is set to launch next year. 

 

March 09, 2015

Six of the Best: Customized Text Message Keyboards

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Android users have historically enjoyed the better deal in terms of smartphone keyboard options. However, Apple’s iOS 8 update means iPhones now support third-party keyboards, something sure to make Apple fans happy. Check out six of the best third-party, customized text message keyboards available today:  

Swype

The keyboard for those who like to type, er, swipe, extra-fast, Swype predicts words when users move their fingers across the screen to connect with different letters in “one continuous motion.” Users may input up to 40 characters per minute using this keyboard, which costs 99 cents on the App Store. 

Kids Keys

This customized keyboard is perfect for parents with children who commandeer their mobile devices. It comes with seven different themes sure to entertain little ones, including polka dots, tricks, monsters, and letters and numbers, and is $2.99 on the App Store. 

 

SwiftKey

The people of SwiftKey are also the team responsible for Stephen Hawking’s communication system. An ultra-smart keyboard that adapts to how you type, it remembers consistent typos and corrects them. The keyboard also learns what emojis you like and how you use them, and allows you to type bilingual messages. It includes a swipe flow feature similar to the one Swype employs as well. SwiftKey is free.

ScribbleBoard 

A custom keyboard for those who want to express themselves with more than words every now and then, ScribbleBoard allows you to “draw your feelings.” It offers a rainbow of colors and swatches for doodling, and you can also copy and paste your drawings into chat sessions. It costs 99 cents on the App Store.  

PopKey 

The perfect custom keyboard for those who enjoy adding GIFs to every text they send, PopKey allows you to pick from hundreds of options within your keyboard rather than switching to your mobile browser or another app. It also lets you store your favorites for easy access. The app is free. 

SNL

If you’re a huge Saturday Night Live fan, you’ll love this SNL emoji keyboard. Add emojis of favorite characters to text messages, such as Stefon, Gilly, Hanz and Franz, Cone Heads, and many more. The app features a keyboard add-on, and is also free. 

Whether you’re looking to add a bit more flavor to text messages or you simply want a practical option that suits your needs, check out the above and other super-cool customized text message keyboards. 

 

 

March 08, 2015

Is Magic, the Text Message Courier Service, actually Any Good?

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Magic is the new on-demand service based in text messages. It’s designed for really busy people….or really lazy people. Some 8,600 people are currently trying to gain access to this “magical” service, which promises the ability to purchase practically anything by “texting your desires.” 

It works (in the U.S., anyway) by sending a text message to a number on the official Magic site. Assuming there aren’t 9,000 people in front of you, you’ll then register your information. This includes name, address, credit card number...you get the idea. The company utilizes payment processing service Stripe to deal with credit card details, allowing such details to remain hidden from Magic employees.  

After all your details are registered, you can use Magic to order basically anything so long as it’s not illegal. Trained Magic operators “figure out the rest,” and all fees and tips are included in the final price. 

Originally a side project, Magic creator Mike Chen notes this is hardly the case anymore.  

“It topped 10,000 incoming messages on Sunday and was closing in on 18,000 Monday morning. Magic's team of magicians on call … grew from two or three at launch to 18 on Sunday,” Chen told Mashable.  

Likened to ChaCha’s text-a-question-and-receive-an-answer service, Magic has already been used to request a tiger (as in the actual jungle cat), as well as less-fangy items and services, such as those for bike wrenches and help in court.  

So how magical is Magic? Popular perhaps due to its simplicity, the service is receiving mixed reviews. It promises quick service that’s “like magic,” with couriers scurrying to your door ready to give you what you wanted, but some argue it’s more like Amazon in that you receive your requested item in a few days’ time. One reviewer notes that even a fairly simple request, such as a delicious chicken parmesan sandwich, took nearly half an hour for a response, which said the restaurant with the very best sandwich was closed.  

The supposedly-speedy courier service could just be experiencing growing pains, and Chen acknowledges the company let too many people sign up in too short a time. 

“We under-predicted how badly people wanted to use the service,” he said in an email. “If we let in a group of people, almost all of them start using it within a few minutes, which is not typical for wait lists with lower-demand services. As of now, I can say that we are letting people in at the correct rate, and that the number-one top focus of the company is quality.” 

Will Magic work out its kinks? Will it become the next big delivery service, bringing clients their hearts’ desires quickly and efficiently? Time will certainly tell.

March 02, 2015

Mobile Marketing is 'Next Big Thing' Says Mediacom Boss

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The fundamental differences between mobile marketing automation and web marketing automation must be thoroughly understood by marketers so they can provide a great user experience “across all touchpoints.” This is according to Ben Phillips, Medicom’s head of mobile.

While advertisers have pushed automated content on mobile devices for awhile now, an ambiguous view of how people switch between platforms has marred efforts. A form of mobile automated marketing that “goes beyond” the standard mobile app is set to become more ubiquitous as proximity triggers and push notifications increase in use.  

Phillips emphasizes the idea that mobile is no longer limited to phones, and that brands must take this into consideration. He notes the most successful advertisers are those who have designed creative mobile strategies first and “appreciate how their audience chooses to engage with them and provides the correct response.” In retail, for example, it’s a good idea to connect the experience with CRM, and personalize ads with relevant context rather than pushing random ads to shoppers as they browse aisles.  

The Mediacom boss also notes the role creativity will play in automated mobile marketing, “as many brands start to build 'mobile first' content that is relevant to the consumer regardless of point of engagement. Automated mobile marketing will enable deeper CRM learnings and processes that lead brands to a more personal one-to-one dialogue with their consumers.”

Audience data is essential to craft personalized dialogue with customers, and Phillips predicts “the race this year will be to obtain a persistent tracking identifier for an individual across platforms. By this I don’t just mean mobile and desktop, we need to be able to verify individuals against wearable devices, a smart TV a connected car and internet of things.”

Brands must step up their automated mobile marketing game and fully understand the wide spectrum that is mobile. Medicom is arguably ahead of the game, as the company is working on partnerships similar to its relationship with advertising technology platform Celtra. This means Medicom can create rich media ad units for both desktop and mobile.

“I believe [brands] aren’t doing enough because they aren’t being directed, taught or educated in the right way,” remarked Phillips. “Our industry will begin to consolidate and roll up into digital within the next year. The 'systems' lead thinking approach will win out as it becomes ever more apparent that mobile sits in every marketing and advertising discipline and not as a siloed specialist function.”

The consumer is at the heart of any mobile strategy, so focusing on a well-rounded marketing ploy that includes multiple platform and advertising options is key. Phillips is correct in recommending brands determine how their audience opts to engage them, and to build a mobile marketing strategy from there. The companies that take advantage of this idea are the ones who will figuratively blow competition out of the water in the next few years.